Perioperative pain management: an update for obstetrician-gynecologists

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Feb;218(2):193-199. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.06.021. Epub 2017 Jun 27.


The opioid epidemic in the United States is unprecedented and continues to worsen. Many opioid abusers obtain their pills through legitimate prescriptions, directly or indirectly, from a medical provider. While practitioners have a responsibility to treat pain, it is now becoming clear that aggressive opioid prescription practices contribute to an epidemic of abuse. The medical community has to balance the unintended consequences of opioid misuse and abuse with the need to provide adequate pain control. Additionally, providers are being held accountable by the legal system and professional organizations for their prescribing practices. Responsible use of opioids is paramount and pain control does not supersede safety. Effective and safe pain management requires that providers perform risk assessments, understand medication risks, avoid excessive reliance on opioids, and adequately monitor and educate patients. Obstetricians and gynecologists are uniquely positioned to influence pain management practices as primary care providers and surgeons who regularly manage both acute and chronic pain conditions. Therefore, the objective of this publication was to familiarize obstetricians and gynecologists with contemporary concepts in pain management and summarize recent guidelines in a manner that is applicable to our specialty. We focus on perioperative pain management, which is the time period immediately before, during, and after surgery. Topics reviewed include proper risk assessment to evaluate a patient's potential for poor pain control or development of chronic pain or misuse of opioids; multimodal pain management with nonpharmacological, nonopioid alternatives, safe opioid-use strategies; education and documentation; and special considerations for women, veterans, and lactation concerns.

Keywords: acute pain; chronic pain; nonopioid; opioid; pain management; perioperative pain; postoperative pain; preoperative pain; risk factors for poor pain control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Delivery, Obstetric*
  • Female
  • Gynecologic Surgical Procedures*
  • Gynecology / methods
  • Humans
  • Obstetrics / methods
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / etiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy*
  • Perioperative Care / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid